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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

DVR, I love you! I hate you!

Posted on April 12, 2010 at 4:01 PM

They say that the more you love something, the more power it has to hurt you. And nowhere is this truer than in my relationship with my Scientific Atlanta cable DVR.


Now, I’ve had a chance to live with and review several other DVR options:TiVo, Moxi and PCs running Windows MediaCenter. (I’ll be revisiting this again soon as I review a new Win7 powered MediaCenter PC.) So, it is with a good bit of experience that I declare the interface offered by my SA box as either A) the LEAST awesome or B) the MOST heinous. (Actually,  the Motorola box is actually even worse, at least in our area. Where features like picture-in-picture and aspect control are disabled.) However, I stick with the Explorer 8300HD because the alternative is spending several hundred on a box that relies on CableCARD technology.Technology that, in my experience, has been buggy and lame. (Getting CableCARD to function perfectly the first time is just slightly less demanding than diving blindfolded into a swimming pool full of quarters and pulling out the one, lone dime.) Also, my box works for the most part, with a recording success rate that would get it in the Major League Baseball hall of fame and an even more trustworthy pausing and rewinding live TV feature.


However, over my multi-year relationship, the DVR has boned memore times than a prison lifer. There was the time a couple of years ago where it just *refused* to record Survivor. Now, it turns out that this was something happening all over the country, so throwing the entire blame mountain onto the plastic, super-heated shoulders of my DVR might not be fair, but, suck it up DVR ‘cause I’m not looking at the entire country when I come home to see no Survivor, I’m looking at you! And that throbbing temple vein isn’t saying, “Hi! Nice to see you!”


Also, let’s not forget that I’m on like my 5th box. I think that Scientific Atlanta saves on hardware costs by only selecting harddrives that have already failed in other devices.

“But, sir, this thing already has like 80% bad sectors. I could put in a better drive for another $.17.”

“Do you want to front that $.17? Cause I don’t. Now, put that drive in and get my Montrachet chilling down. And tell the pilot my jet isn’t flying itself! Also, I’m feeling sporty. Institute a 13% price increase across the board! And take away 3 random channels. Bwaaaa-ha-ha-ha!!!”


Actually, what I *really* think is that when you return something defective to Time Warner, they place it on the shelf and then just hand your broken POS to the next customer that walks in, perpetuating the cycle of broken gear in the marketplace like a horribly dysfunctional, broken techno merry go round. Of course, the real beauty of your DVR failing is that you lose everything you have recorded. EVERYTHING! That entire season of Heroes you’d been saving up to watch in one marathon session? Gone! That HD special of Pixar animated shorts your daughter loved watching? Sayonara!


So, when I came home on Thursday night and settled in with my blue-cheese stuffed olive martini ready to get my Survivor on, my first thought on not seeing it in the recorded program queue was a rage filled bloodlust. So help me, DVR, if you’re up to your old tricks... Then I started *hoping* that maybe Survivor hadn’t been on that night. Maybe there was some final-final four game or that it was that lame mid-season recap show. (I say "lame" but you know I'm gonna watch it.) Or that it had been a repeat. You know, like after 20 seasons they decided to pick *this* Thursday to show their first repeat episode ever. (It could happen, right?) So I backtracked through the schedule and...wrong! New episode. Then I noticed the problem. Scheduling conflict. I had three shows scheduled for the same time, and my DVR dropped Survivor like it had a rolly on its arm and it was pourin’ Chandon.


Turns out that like 6 months ago, when Flash Forward was on its original night (Monday? Tuesday? I can’t even remember or care. But what I do know is that it definitely was *not* on already-crammed-full-of-greatness Thursday), I told the DVR to record all episodes. So, sitting there safely recorded were Flash Forward and right below it an episode of Parks and Recreation. I wanted to grab a golf club and chase after the DVR Elin Woods style, but instead, I took a deep breath and thought, “OK. Let’s make lemon-frickin’-ade. And this better be the best damn episode of Parks and Recreation... EVER!

Of course, it wasn’t. But, CBS on demand actually came through and posted up the newest Survivor on Friday, meaning that I could watch Courtney in all her feisty glory – calling Probst “Jeffrey” after he dissed her? Classic! – at Tribal Council. (Courtney, try and win a food challenge though, kay? You’re still all blonde-haired Winona from the neck up, but you’re looking "Sports Illustrated Dachau swimsuit edition" everywhere else…) And in searching for Survivor, I stumbled across The Masters 3D coverage which made for a nice post, so all’s well that ends well right?


What SA needs to add is a triage capability. Let me rank the importance of each show. So that when I say “Record Survivor” you'll know that what I mean is RECORD EVERY FRICKIN’ EPISODE OF SURVIVOR REGARDLESS OF WHAT ELSE IS ON! Seriously, unless there are two other shows on at the same time entitled “Watch this and we give you $1 million guaranteed” AND “You WILL die if you don’t watch this” then go with Survivor.

Categories: April 2010, TV, Rants

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